Fiddleheads and Chives with Quinoa Pasta

Have you ever seen vegetables as whimsical as these Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)? Presenting…fiddleheads! Sure, they look like high fashion Philip Treacy hats, but these greens have humble roots.

According to, “depending on the weather, they begin to appear around late April to early May along river and stream banks, in open woodlands, and at the edges of swamps and marshes across New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.”

They are one of the favourite foods to forage in springtime, but note that only the Ostrich fern type is edible (the rest are toxic), so consult an expert first before heading out.

Called fiddleheads because of their resemblance to the arm (head) of the fiddle, they are, actually, the unfurled fronds of the Ostrich fern. And since they are harvested young (before the fronds furl out), they are cut pretty close to the ground. To clean, soak them in several changes of water until the grit is gone.

They sure do look fancy, but in reality, fiddleheads are rustic greens that grow in the wild and have yet to be tamed (read: cultivated) by man. But according to an article I found here, John DeLong of Agriculture Canada reports that fiddleheads are nutritional power houses; therefore, they should be farmed.

The article stated, “‘When we tested the activity, we found that they were twice as strong as blueberries with regard to this antioxidant activity. We didn’t expect that, that was very surprising to us,’ DeLong said Wednesday.

Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals linked to the development of a number of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

Test results also showed that fiddleheads are packed with another nutrient, omega-3 fatty acids, DeLong said.

‘They have a unique fatty acid that plants don’t normally have, which is only found in fish,’ he said.”

Are you now convinced to try fiddleheads? Here’s a little cooking tip: boil for at least 15 minutes or steam for at least 10 minutes. I also sautéed them afterwards with chives that I picked from my in-law’s garden. It’s your call: you can eat them this way…or you can also add them to pasta. I used quinoa pasta (a healthy, gluten-free alternative to regular pasta) , and I made a chive-parsley pesto-like sauce to dress it. Yum, so fresh!

And in case you are wondering how they taste like, they’re somewhat earthy, grassy, and nutty. They taste a like asparagus, but grassier.

5.0 from 6 reviews
Fiddleheads and Chives with Quinoa Pasta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe Type: Sides, Main Course
Serves: 4
  • 2 cups fiddleheads, washed and cleaned
  • a few stalks of chives (use as many or few as you want)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to season
  • red chili flakes (optional)
  1. Clean fiddleheads by brushing away dirt and / or washing and soaking them in two changes of water.
  2. Put stove on medium heat and boil or steam them for 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and dry well.
  3. In another pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chives to the pan and sweat for a minute or less.
  4. Add the fiddleheads and sauté them until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately or add to your choice of pasta*.
*For the pasta, I put the snipped chives with flat-leaf parsley in a food processor with olive oil. Purée until smooth.




  • Reply May 18, 2012

    Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    Such a pretty pasta dish! Now I wish I had bought the fiddleheads I saw at the farmers’ market in San Francisco a few weeks ago.

  • I don’t think I will ever get to taste fiddleheads unless I go to Canada. I’ve always found them beautiful and curious about their taste. I love the photos Jen, and the dish itself sounds very good!

  • Reply May 18, 2012


    I saw the fiddleheads recipe in Canadian Living last month, but I had no idea where to buy them in Toronto. I should have tried a little harder, because your pasta looks great.

  • Jen, this is outstanding dish! Beautiful colors and very tempting! I love your styling and presentation..and photo look like I just want to eat it of off the screen! Just beautiful!

  • Wonderful dish. I love asparagus, so I am sure if I ever could try fiddleheads I would like them! Just have never seen them before :)

  • I saw these greens about a year ago for the first time. I’m still debating if I ever want to try them or not.
    If someone makes them for me as pretty as you made this dish, I may have a bite :)

  • Reply May 18, 2012


    A beautiful and intriguing dish! I just love your photos;-) Fiddleheads are such a natural ingredient, reminds me of hiking along a creek through the woods;-)

  • Reply May 18, 2012


    Hi, can you get this in Europe, it looks great!!!!

  • this sounds wonderful! i’ve never had quinoa pasta but i’m intrigued – it looks great here. going to hunt some down at our local organic store tomorrow.

  • Reply May 18, 2012


    I’ve never heard of fiddleheads before, love the name! Your tablecloth is gorgeous!!!

  • Reply May 19, 2012


    I’ve heard about these long time ago, but never seen them in stores! Do you know if they sell them in Western Canada as well?

    • Reply June 4, 2012


      Mizz J – I live in Edmonton and I got some at Save-On about 2 weeks ago; my sister lives in Calgary and got some at Co-op. We grew up with these, but they can be hard to find, so both of us bought the whole stock in the store that we were at! I looked for them when I did my grocery shopping this week, but there were none to be found. The season is really short, and appears to be over this year. My freezer is stocked, though.

  • What a beautiful dish! I was just at whole foods last night and I spied the fiddleheads right along side the ramps I purchased. You have inspired me and I need to try these little delights. Great photos!! Have a wonderful weekend!!!

  • Reply May 19, 2012

    Magic of Spice

    This is such a stunning dish! I wish we had fiddleheads around here, but have yet to see them. I have had them a few times up in N CA, but never here…
    I will just have to visit you one day 😉

  • Reply May 20, 2012


    I never had used or seen fiddleheads before, they look cool!

  • Reply May 20, 2012


    Fiddleheads…what a name! (I love it)
    Your photos are breathtaking! Every time I visit, I cast disgruntled looks at my little point & shoot camera. :p Thanks for sharing this recipe. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to find fiddleheads where I live, but I’m starting to look for some spring-board ideas on how to prepare quinoa!

  • Fiddleheads are so graceful looking – I don’t need to go to the farmers market (lots to cook from our garden!), but I’ve been wanting to try these and you’ve inspired me! Beautiful dish and photos as always :)

  • I love fiddlehead ferns but have yet to see them in Israel! Your photos are simply stunning and this dish sounds amazing. I’m so glad you stopped by my blog so I could discover yours – gorgeous :-)

  • Reply May 21, 2012


    What a beautiful, simple dish–fresh flavors take center stage. Each time I see fiddleheads I’m reminded of my trip to Vancouver (and surroundings) a few years ago. Had a couple wonderful dishes featuring them and now the association between the city and veggie is permanent. Have enjoyed them here in California lately, too. Pretty pictures!

  • I’ve never used or had fiddlehead before. But then just in case I checked dictionary (translator) and actually found out that I had… LOL. But ones we see in Japanese food are always brown, which is why I didn’t recognize them. You make beautiful dish that everyone would love to try despite of unique look, seriously!!

  • What a gorgeous dish!! I tried fiddleheads for the first time last year, while we were in New York, and I was so intrigued by them as I’d never heard of them before and I certainly have never heard of them here in Australia. They are wonderful though, and you are right, they do take like a grassier version of asparagus.

  • Reply May 21, 2012


    What a beautiful dish, the fiddle heads look gorgeous all curled up like that. I’ve never heard of them but I’m intrigued now, as always beautiful photos and styling!

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Choc Chip Uru

    What a stunningly beautiful dish my friend – fiddleheads are gorgeous to eat and decorate with 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  • Reply May 24, 2012


    I have yet to try fiddleheads, but Jen, this is beyond stunning. Love your styling, and the recipe sounds SO good. I’ve always wondered how they taste, and thanks to you, I have a pretty good idea! Can’t wait to try it out myself :)

  • Reply May 27, 2012


    What gorgeous photos! I love fiddleheads…will have to try this recipe out

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  • Reply June 4, 2012

    thyme (sarah)

    I am so attracted by all of these dishes going by with fiddleheads. I’ve never seen them nor tasted them. I don’t think they grow down here in the south. They look delicious and you put them in a beautiful dish. Photos are wonderful.

  • Reply May 6, 2013

    Rustik Magazine

    This recipe looks delicious – we are going to share it with our readers. We did a story last week – – about how to safely forage for fiddleheads in the wild, and also how to grow them in the home garden. Check around at your local nurseries for ostrich fern crowns and plant them in a partly shaded spot. You won’t be able to enjoy them this year, but we promise the wait will be worth it!

  • Reply April 26, 2014


    I live in Toronto and we can get them in some of our grocery stores in the spring. They are amazing!

    If you have Chinese or Asian markets where you live they might have them. In Canada, a lot of the fiddleheads come from our east coast provinces (Eastern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

    Haven’t tried the recipe yet but I know it will be good; could even spice it up a bit with some garlic in the pasta sauce (good idea of blending some chives, oil, parsley and cilli peppers or garlic).

    • Reply July 25, 2014


      Yes, I live in Toronto and have access to fiddleheads from the East Coast. I hear that they grow wild around Ottawa as well! Hope you tried the recipe and enjoyed it. Thanks for visiting. -Jen

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